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On the Restorative Power of Lou Reed


It was another night of drinking alone. An unfortunate series of events had led to my beloved “best friend” of a lover choosing social networking over our relationship (which is a story unto itself), and I flew solo back home again into the heart of good ol’ Isla Vista. Though I was depressed and shocked with how it all turned out, I felt liberated by the whole experience. Relationships and yours truly mix like oil and water.

After making a cocktail or two of my own at home — waste not, want not — I staggered down to The Study Hall. It was a weekday night, and with school still not in session the place was pretty dead. I settled in the dark, anonymous atmosphere, drinking one of many Bloody Marys, the best in the area, bar none, when my moping was interrupted by a god-awful tune on the jukebox.

I looked over to see some fratty-type putting loads of dollars into the jukebox, cranking out one terrible piece of “music” after another. I gazed down the bar, well, a couple of stools over, to see a disinterested girl who resembled something out of an R. Crumb comic mindlessly entertaining herself on a cellphone, no doubt engaging in some incredibly important conversation.

Her meathead date finally meandered back over and took a seat next to her, and he proceeded to pull a phone out and mindlessly indulge himself, paying no attention to the girl in front of him nor the atrocious tuneage he’d put on the jukebox.

Broke as I was, I decided enough was enough. Some emergencies call for blowing money pointlessly, so I walked to the jukebox.

This contraption had a “super search” button on it, and I started scouring for something decent, all the while being distracted by the horror blaring from the speakers. I finally stumbled across my jam, a cut of “Waiting for the Man” from the Velvet Underground’s Live with Lou Reed, Volume 1. The song itself is pure gold, about a junky’s trip to Harlem to score dope, but this particular edition opens with Reed, loaded and in all his glory talking to a crowd at the Matrix (a legendary San Francisco music spot) for minutes before the actual music starts.

I paid the extra credit to get my song to play next, and then, as an encore, dropped in the extra cash for Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone” live at the Monterey pop, totally interrupting and disrupting the cavalcade of shit pouring from the speakers. I sauntered back to my seat; the two daters were still engulfed by their electronic opium.

Soon enough though, the music cut, and Lou Reed’s unmistakable, heroin-addled, monotonous voice came on, babbling about curfews and cowboys, and I peered up from my drink to see the mood of the two electronic dope fiends drastically change.

“What in the fuck did you play?” the R. Crumb girl said in a disgusted tone, looking at meathead.

“I played Brad Paisley!” he shouted indignantly. “I played Brad Paisley!”

“Well,” R. Crumb’s creation said, “this is horrible … it’s just talking.”

Both of them looked at each other dumbfounded. Then the music kicked in.

I looked over and said overtop of a line about going to a Brownstone off of 125, “You mean neither of you know what this is?”

They gazed at me with the look of someone watching a washing machine spin round and round at a laundromat. “No,” they said in unison.

“It’s Lou Reed. And the Velvet Underground.”

“Who?”

“Never mind,” I said laughing. “You really need to get better taste in music though.”

“Like, I think you do! This is terrible!” the chick shouted at me.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said taking a draw off my cocktail. “This is just awful music. Awful.”

“Then why the fuck did you play it?” meathead inquired in a somewhat angry, irritated tone.

“Because I like to sit in dark bars and listen to shitty music,” I replied.

They continued looking at me, puzzled, and I drank my drink, before ordering another.

Jimi came and went, and then the shit music began playing again. I decided it was my cue to exit. So I did, leaving the bar a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

I wandered back to my house and grabbed a bottle of expensive Japanese scotch I’d been saving for my beloved before our blow up, and felt it was a good night for a walk. So I carried my bottle to my spot on Sands and began drinking the expensive goodness under the cool breeze, listening to the calm of the crashing surf in front of me. The last few months had been a long, strange trip, but I was back. Back in the heart of darkness, the heart of depravity, the heart of decadence, the heart of everything that is right and wrong in the world.

And it felt pretty damned good.

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